Veteran defenseman Brian Rafalski is adjusting to his new surroundings and team after being signed this offseason. Rafalski actually turned down a bigger contract from his former team, the New Jersey Devils, so that he could play for his hometown (he's from Allen Park, Michigan).
"It's really different," Rafalski said at Troy Sports Center. "Seeing how everyone plays, making the passes to different guys, yeah, definitely it's a little different." ...
"Like the support network, if anything goes wrong or if we need help, it's quick to all the parents," Rafalski said. "It does make things easier, especially off the ice."
I couldn't imagine how hard it would be to adjust to a new city and team with a different playing style, but at least he has a good family support structure around to help him get through the adjustment process.
Hopefully after a solid time of playing with his new teammates during training camp and the preseason, Rafalski will have a strong grasp of Detroit's playing style and even his teammate's voices.
"It's really different," Rafalski said Thursday. "We were playing a little scrimmage out there and I'm like passing to the wrong guys."
That's why skating with about half the team during informal practices this week in Troy is important for Rafalski. Training camp starts on Sept. 14 in Traverse City.
"The names and (voices on the ice) don't come first-hand. I have to learn all the names and use them on the ice,'' Rafalski said. "Communication is obviously important."
Rafalski doesn't quite bring the offensive output that former defenseman Mathieu Schneider had, but his offense should pick up with Detroit due to their style of play (puck possession team) allowing Rafalski to have more of an offensive role during a rush in play. He's expected to partner up with captain Nicklas Lidstrom and the two will play the point on the power play. Aside from Chris Chelios, Rafalski is the only defenseman on the team who shoots with his right hand.
There's always the possibility that Rafalski could be bumped down to the second defensive pairing if it's struggling, but look to see him start the season off with Lidstrom.